Overhead shot of baked ziti with wooden serving spoon

Baked Ziti with Eggplant & Chicken Sausage

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Baked Ziti With Eggplant & Chicken Sausage is a pasta dish perfect for the holidays. Al dente penne pasta tossed in a tangy tomato sauce, along with tender apple chicken sausage and cinnamon-dusted roasted eggplant, is what you need on your dinner table. Top all that tastiness off with a gracious helping of mozzarella cheese, and you have the perfect anytime meal that’s ready in no time.

This post has been written in partnership with Barilla. All opinions are mine alone.

Overhead shot of baked ziti with barilla penne pasta box

A family-style pasta recipe means less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the dish with family and friends. And when we make pasta, our go-to is Barilla. We’ve used Barilla for several years in many pasta dishes.

Now let’s jump into this baked goodness, shall we?

Baked ziti is the definition of comfort food. Pasta layered with tomato sauce, your choice of veggies and/or proteins, and topped off with a layer of cheese then baked in the oven —that’s an easy and satisfying dinner you have right there.

Finished baking dish with baked ziti

Which pasta is best for baked ziti?

Although the dish is typically made using ziti pasta (hence the name), you can also use penne. Both are great for baking as they hold their shape and the noticeable ridges on the pasta’s exterior mean they do a fantastic job at soaking all the sauces and seasoning and stick well to that creamy cheese. The major difference between the two is ziti’s ends are cut in a straight line, versus penne is cut diagonally. Since both are cylinder-shaped, you can opt for ziti or penne pasta to create this dish, and both work great.

The spiced roasted eggplant combined with apple chicken sausage is my secret ingredient that really brings out those holiday vibes. The light dusting (with cinnamon) and roasting of the eggplant give off a fragrant aroma, enhancing the eggplant by invoking a warm sweet flavor. Did I say cinnamon? Yep, trust me on this one.

The apple chicken sausage adds a slight sweetness to this dish — and it’s also less sodium and calories than your typical sausage. These two together are the perfect match when balanced by the tomato sauce.

Overhead shot of baked ziti with wooden serving spoon

Ingredients you’ll need to make baked ziti:

  • One 16 oz. box of Barilla Ziti or Penne Pasta will do the trick. Once you combine all the ingredients, you’ll easily be able to fill a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.
  • You’ll saute sliced apple chicken sausage and yellow onions together.
  • For the roasted eggplant, you’ll toss cubed eggplant with Himalayan salt, ground cinnamon, black pepper, and olive oil.
  • You’ll start with crushed (regular and fire-roasted) tomatoes and enhance the sauce from there by adding grated parmesan cheese, minced garlic, black pepper, garlic powder, and Himalayan salt.
  • Once the dish’s individual components are done, fold them all together and incorporate additional seasonings: oregano, black pepper, ground thyme, tarragon, and Himalayan salt.
  • And we can’t forget about the cheese! While layering the baked ziti, add some more parmesan cheese and top it all off with mozzarella cheese.
Taking a serving spoon filled with pasta

How to make baked ziti:

  1. You will begin this dish by cutting your whole eggplant into medium-sized cubes (don’t forget to remove the leafy ends).
  2. Place the eggplant onto a baking dish and sprinkle evenly with eggplant seasonings and finish them off with a drizzle of olive oil.
  3. Bake the eggplant for 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Give them a quick toss halfway through baking to ensure they roast evenly. Set them to the side when done.
  4. Begin the sauce by adding crushed tomatoes and fire-roasted crushed tomatoes (paid link) to a cooking pot on low heat. Add all tomato sauce ingredients into the pot and stir. Cooking for 10 minutes.
  5. Cut your yellow onion into small pieces, then slice the apple chicken sausage. Saute them both together on medium heat until the onions are translucent and the sausage is slightly browned.
  6. Cook your Barilla Penne pasta as instructed, then drain and add to a large bowl.
  7. To the penne pasta, add the tomato sauce, roasted eggplant, chicken sausage & onions, and 1/2 (8 oz.) of the mozzarella cheese. Fold everything together.
  8. Pour half of the pasta mixture into a 9X13 baking dish, layer with a 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, then top off with the remaining pasta mixture.
  9. Top off with the remaining mozzarella cheese and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

While baking, the pasta will fill your home with an aroma that will attract everyone near to the kitchen.

Single serving of baked ziti on plate

Barilla pasta is a great option and has been one of our family favorites for years. If you love baked pasta dishes and are looking for a main course to showcase on your holiday table, this Baked Ziti Eggplant and Apple Chicken Sausage is delicious, and it will not disappoint. Happy holidays!

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Overhead shot of baked ziti with wooden serving spoon

Baked Ziti With Eggplant & Chicken Sausage


  • Author: Eric Jones
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x

Description

Baked Ziti with Roasted Eggplant & Apple Chicken Sausage combines penne pasta with tomato sauce, apple chicken sausage, and roasted eggplant.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 16 oz. Barilla Penne Pasta
  • 24 oz. Apple Chicken Sausage
  • 16 oz. Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Oregano
  • 1 tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. Ground Thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. Tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp. Himalayan Salt

For the Eggplant:

  • 1 Whole Eggplant
  • 1/2 tsp. Himalayan Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1/8 cup Olive Oil

For the Tomato Sauce:

  • 28 oz. Crushed Tomatoes
  • 15 oz. Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes (paid link)
  • 1/3 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 tbsp. Minced Garlic
  • 1 tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Himalayan Salt

Instructions

  1. Cut eggplant into medium-sized cubes. Place the eggplant onto a baking dish and sprinkle with eggplant seasonings then toss with olive oil. Bake them for 25 minutes at 400 degrees.
  2. Add crushed tomatoes and fire-roasted crushed tomatoes (paid link) to a cooking pot on low heat. Add all sauce ingredients into the pot. Stir and cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Cut your onion into small pieces. Slice the apple chicken sausage. Saute them both together on medium heat until the onions are translucent and the sausage is slightly browned.
  4. Cook your pasta as instructed then drain.
  5. Add cooked pasta to a large bowl and add tomato sauce, roasted eggplant, chicken sausage & onions, and 1/2 (8 oz.) of Mozzarella cheese. Fold until well blended.
  6. Pour half of the pasta mixture into a baking dish, sprinkle add 1/2 cup parmesan cheese over this layer, then layer with the remaining pasta mixture. 
  7. Top pasta with remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 55 minutes
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Oven Baked
  • Cuisine: Italian

Nutrition

  • Calories: 658
  • Sugar: 9.2g
  • Sodium: 1752mg
  • Fat: 27.7g
  • Carbohydrates: 57.2g
  • Fiber: 6.1g
  • Protein: 45g
  • Cholesterol: 153mg
Show Comments (12)
  1. This was the PERFECT dish to introduce my kids to eggplant! It was full of flavor, and the eggplant and chicken sausage tasted amazing together! We’ll definitely be adding this to our dinner rotation.






  2. I’m gonna be making this all season long! The flavors were perfect, especially the cinnamon on the eggplant. So unexpected, yet so delicious!






  3. I wanted to try something new for the family, and I came across this recipe on Instagram. It looked so good I had to try – I did it was was a hit!!! Definitely making again!

  4. This is just wow! I really appreciate that you included a homemade tomato sauce in this recipe as well. So simple but makes a huge difference in taste.






  5. This was absolutely delicious! I loved the addition of chicken sausage and the eggplant! My whole family loved this dish!






  6. Absolutely genius! The apple sausage especially just tied everything together and lit up my taste buds! Thanks a mill for this!






  7. The combination of the apple chicken sausage with the eggplant was out of this world! I’m already thinking about my leftovers for tomorrow!






  8. You just changed the game with that cinnamon dusted eggplant. That took the dish to a whole nother’ level. Will definitely be making this again.






  9. What a combination! The eggplant and the chicken apple sausage just took this ziti to the next level. I made this for dinner tonight and my family devoured it! Thanks for the great recipe!






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